Media, Technology and Reading in Hispanic Families: A National Survey

From the NiLP Network on Latino Issues
This study, Media, Technology and Reading in Hispanic Families: A National Survey, by the Center on Media and Human Development at Northwestern University and the National Center for Families Learning, written by Ellen Wartella, PhD , Emily Kirkpatrick, MBA, Victoria Rideout, MA, Alexis R. Lauricella, PhD and Sabrina L. Connell, MA was released in December 2013. The purpose of this report is to provide a detailed look at family practices related to reading and use of electronic media in Hispanic households with young children. In recent years there have been several large national surveys tracking media use among young children-by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Common Sense Media, and Northwestern University's Center on Media and Human Development. Each of these studies included an oversample of Hispanic families, but none had a sample large enough to be able to study media use in Hispanic families in depth-exploring differences by age, gender, primary language, or socioeconomic status. The present survey allows us to explore how those variables relate to media use, as well as how media practices in Hispanic families compare with other ethnic groups.
The survey being reported on here includes a sample of 663 Hispanic parents of children ages 8 and under. It examines media use in the home, including "traditional" electronic media such as television, newer interactive screen media such as computers and video games, and the newest Internetenabled mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. It also explores reading via traditional print as well as e-reading devices. In addition, the survey probes parents' views about the impact of various types of media on different aspects of their children's development, including academics, behavior, and social skills.
The survey was conducted in late fall 2012 as a companion to a study being conducted among the US population as a whole about parenting in the age of digital technology. That broader survey was conducted by Northwestern University's Center on Media and Human Development, with the National Center for Families Learning providing funding to include a large sample of Hispanic parents. A report on the general population survey results was released by Northwestern in June 2013. The current report includes results among Hispanic parents only. It is intended to help inform the work of educators, children's advocates, health promoters, and child development experts who seek to leverage the power of media to improve the lives of Hispanic children.
Key Findings
1. Hispanic children read for more than an hour a day (1:08), an average of 14 minutes more per day than non- Hispanic White children. There are no statistically significant differences in the amount of time Hispanic children spend reading based on parents' education or family income.
2. Access to new mobile media devices among Hispanic families is widespread. Three out of four (76 percent) Hispanic families with children ages 8 and under own at least one of the following mobile devices: a smartphone (72 percent), an iPod Touch or similar device (23 percent), or a tablet computer such as an iPad, Kindle Fire, or Galaxy Tab (33 percent).
3. There are still significant gaps in mobile access between Hispanic and non-Hispanic families. Hispanic parents own smartphones at a similar rate to non-Hispanic White parents, but they are less likely to own a tablet device (33 percent, compared with 46 percent of non-Hispanic White parents).
4. Income explains significant differences in mobile device ownership among Hispanic families. About half (54 percent) of lower-income (less than $25,000 a year) Hispanic families own a smartphone, compared with 77 percent and 78 percent of middle- ($25-75,000 a year) and higher-income (more than $75,000 a year) families, respectively. Nineteen percent of lower-income Hispanic families own iPads or similar tablet devices-compared with 54 percent of those earning over $75,000 a year.
5. Hispanic children whose families own mobile devices and computers use them more than non-Hispanic White children do. The average difference is 11 minutes more per day using a tablet device (34 vs. 23 minutes), 13 minutes more using a computer (35 vs. 22 minutes), and 16 minutes more using a smartphone (26 vs. 10 minutes).
6. Hispanic parents see more of a positive than a negative effect on children's literacy from television, computers, and mobile devices. Nearly six in ten (59 percent) parents say computers have a mainly positive effect on children's reading skills, compared with just 8 percent who say they have a mainly negative effect. For television and mobile devices, the rates are lower, but more still say the net effect of each medium is positive (34 percent vs. 17 percent for mobile devices and 33 percent vs. 20 percent for television).
7. Although access to and use of video games is widespread, most Hispanic parents hold negative views of gaming's impact on their children. Seventy-three percent of Hispanic families own a console video game player, and children ages 8 and under spend an average of 24 minutes a day playing console games. But 45 percent of parents say video games have a mainly negative effect on children's social skills, compared with 12 percent who say positive. Forty-four percent say they have a mainly negative effect on children's behavior, compared with 10 percent who say positive.
8. Most Hispanic parents are convinced that computer and digital literacy are essential skills for their children, and they do not believe their children are lagging behind. Sixty-six percent of parents agree that their child needs to be skilled with computers and new devices like tablets to be successful in life (32 percent disagree). And the vast majority are confident about their child's skill levels-only 3 percent strongly agree (and 12 percent somewhat agree) that they are concerned their child's peers may be able to use computers and tablets better than their child (83 percent disagree with this statement).
9. Television dominates families' media lives. Nearly all (99 percent) Hispanic families have a television set, and 50 percent have three or more sets in the home. Children spend far more time watching television than using any other medium, an average of 2:07 a day among all those ages 8 and under.
10. Hispanic children watch more TV than non-Hispanic White children do, but time spent viewing does not vary by socioeconomic status. Hispanic children average about a half-hour a day (:29) more TV time than their non-Hispanic White counterparts (2:07 vs. 1:38). Lower income Hispanic families are more likely to have a TV set in the child's bedroom (53 percent, compared with 28 percent for higher-income families) and report having a TV on all or most of the time in the home (50 percent, compared with 29 percent in the higher-income group). However, there is no statistically significant difference in the time Hispanic children spend watching TV, based on either their parent's education or their family's income.